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microphones to record classical guitar at home

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by Haris, Dec 15, 2014.

  1. Haris

    Haris Active Member

    Now I use Zoom H4n with the in-built microphones to record classical guitar at home. I use it as audio interface to record to Audacity, or record to SD and then import it to PC. Here is a recording example:
    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoZxu-7HT9k

    I would like to upgrade my system and need some advise: I think it would make a difference if I added a Rode NT-4. What do you think?
    Also, is it better to buy a Rode NT-4 or one better mono microphone like Neumann KM-184-MT?
    Maybe some other idea?

    Thank you
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I really like your recording... I think it sounds very warm and smooth... although I do think it's missing some "silk" and "air" up top.

    Having two mics - or one stereo mic - does give you the luxury of being able to record in stereo.

    There's noting wrong with the NT4, but it is permanently set for an X-Y coincidental pattern, and there are other patterns that can serve just as nicely, and sometimes even nicer, depending on what you are doing and the environment in which you are recording.

    For example, if you were to get two separate cardioid mics, you could not only do X-Y, but also ORTF.

    If you were to get 1 nice multi-pattern condenser with a Fig 8 setting, and another cardioid condenser, you could do M-S miking.

    All of the above lend very nice depth and space to recordings of instruments - like acoustic and classical guitars - but, your environment needs to be taken in as a factor too, because if you have some acoustic anomalies happening in the room - things like flutter echo, or ringing/pinging, then a multi mic array (or a stereo condenser mic) will tend to enhance those acoustic problems.

    Have you looked into the various multi mic array patterns?

    You may want to start there...

    Haris likes this.
  3. Haris

    Haris Active Member

    Thank you DonnyThompson for reply. I record usually in a small room (about 2X3.5meters), which is not an ideal environment I suppose. So I don't think I should do something extreme regarding recording. That is why I thought of NT-4. I will read the link you mention.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Just to get a couple of things out of the way first: I'm assuming that the purpose of your recording is to have a record of your solo playing, and also the acoustic environment where you are recording seems to be a bedroom or something similar.

    The Rode NT4 as a microphone is not hugely better than the pair of SDCs built into the Zoom H4N. The NT4 is a little smoother over the upper mids and probably has lower noise levels, but the pre-amps in the H4N are not sufficiently quiet to let this feature show through.

    My feeling is that the NT4 would not be the best investment for you at this point. If you went for a stereo pair of the NT5s or the NT55s you would get more flexibility by being able to position them independently as Donny suggested, but the Rode SDCs all use basically the same cardioid capsule so are sonically similar. The NT55s of course come with interchangeable omni capsules as well, so can be used in A-B configuration where needed, but I would not advise using A-B configuration in the acoustic surroundings apparent from your YouTube video. Although I use M-S microphone positioning for many classical guitar recordings, I think I would have similar reservations about using it in this case.

    What it comes down to is that you have to take the acoustic environment into consideration when choosing what type of microphone to use. Those that have a reasonably wide choice of microphones to choose from for any recording assignment would listen very carefully to how the room is behaving before selecting two or three to use for trial recordings. Careful listening to these trials usually enables the narrowing down of the choice to one type or one configuration, but I for one often record additional microphone tracks for safety, even if it turns out they never get used in the final release.

    This means that if you are restricting recording to the room shown in the video you may decide to purchase a mic that is most suitable for that acoustic, whereas if you need a mic that could be used in that room but was capable of giving substantially better results in a better acoustic, then you may decide that's the way to go. Either way, I would not rush out and buy something only to find there is no real improvement on what you can achieve with the H4N on its own.

    As an aside, for this sort of work I would always record to the SD card in the H4N and then transfer the recording via USB to a computer rather than use it as an audio interface, as you get 24-bit recordings to the SD card but only 16-bit when used as an interface.
    DonnyAir likes this.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    See there? I didn't know that... and now I do. ;)
  6. Haris

    Haris Active Member


    Yes, it is a small room that has a bed, a desk with PC and selves with books. I play here guitar and make here my recordings, because if I play in some other room, I will wake up children etc.
    Also, I have to setup my recording equipment every time I want to make a recording and then put everything in a safe place bacause otherwise my 3 years old daughter may destroy something. So it has to be something that can be setup easily (that is why I thought of NT-4).

    Should I also consider to buy a preamp?

    I will record mostly in this room. But occasionally I may record in the living room which is much bigger.

    Thank you for reply!
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    A nice preamp will always make any good microphone sound better than if you use the same nice mic through a cheap, budget preamp - audio I/O.

    There are things to consider when looking at preamps / I-O's... ( like the quality of the preamps, how much gain they have, and the quality of AD-DA converters in the I/O, which can really make a difference in the quality of your sound).

    Also, telling us what type of computer you have (CPU, RAM, HDD) as well as the type of connection you want (USB, Firewire, PCIe Card) is important, because there are different ways to et audio into and out of your computer.

    It would also help us to know what price range you have in mind, as this would assist us when it comes to certain equipment recommendations.

    There are also some inexpensive and easy ways to make the room you are in sound better acoustically, too, but again, we have to have an idea of your available budget, along with your location, because - depending on where you are, certain items and materials may not be available to you - or - may cost considerably more than what we pay in the U.S., Canada or the U.K.

    Now... this is important too....you need to ask yourself just how serious you want to be - in regard to the quality of the final product you expect or want to deliver.

    If you consider yourself to just be a hobbyist at this, ( which is fine) then you can get by with gear that is much cheaper, but, the sound you'll end up with won't be as nice as it would be if you purchased equipment that is higher in sonic quality, and accordingly, more expensive.

    Tell us how serious you want to get, how much money you have to spend, what kind of computer you have and where you are located, and we can help you more.

    Haris likes this.
  8. Haris

    Haris Active Member

    Thank you for extensive replies!
    My PC is Intel Core i3 3.50 GHz, RAM 8GB
    Disks: 1 SSD 447GB, 1 HDD 1TB, 1HDD 4GB.

    I would prefer USB (2 or 3) connection.
    The price range for the mic is about 600-700€ or maybe a little more if needed.
    Later I consider to buy a preamp.
    About the quality: I am a hobbyist and want to have good sound for myself without buying something extremely expensive. I would prefer 1 stereo mic, because I don't want to mess with adjustments also as I said I want to easily setup and put it back to storage. That is why I asked if it is preferable to buy 1 better mono mic than 1 lower quality stereo mic.
    I am located in Greece.

    Thank you again!
  9. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Some recordists will get away with cheaper gear knowing a few tricks like finding the sweet (narrow) spot of onboard interface preamps and gain staging correctly. A great part of a recording is good performance and creativity no gear will teach you that ! ;)
    I sometime get homemade tracks from customers, not that my setup is perfect but, I usually pinpoint very soon what there problems are. They become their signature (same frequency peaks in all recordings, room noise or ambiance etc) It is sometime easy to compensate but other times you can't do anything.

    What ever our setup is, we all need to adapt and learn the limits of our gear.
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Too true, pc. Some of the worst tracks to mix are those recorded by someone who only has one microphone and uses it for everything. When you mix several tracks recorded like this, the nasty frequencies add together leaving the musical bits many dB lower. It's often better to record multiple tracks using as many different microphones as you can so their sonic signatures do not stand out in the mix.
    pcrecord likes this.
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Exactly, I am faced with this every mix I do for people. Some are better than others but there are few ideal. This is another example of what I am getting at with bleed. It too has a sonic signature that comes from headphones. It translates as spiky sss and shirly proximity effect. Which is what I am hearing with Donny's 414/ Tube examples too. Which has sparked a new topic of the week for me.

    There is a direct correlation to gear quality and developing skills that teach us to identify things we once never noticed or heard, or never will. This is also that last 2% where the bits are holding back the bytes.
    pcrecord likes this.
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I dunno (shrugs). I didn't even use headphones on the 414 track excerpt example. I wasn't singing to a track, I just sang a 1/2 chorus excerpt - without monitoring anything.

    Doesn't really matter, I guess, as the track isn't up to par either tonally or performance-wise, so obviously I've got other issues to contend with.
  13. Haris

    Haris Active Member

    I thought I could buy a Neumann KM-184-MT to have a simple good quality mono setup in my small recording room and later if I wanted buy a second same one to make stereo recordings. Or the technology may change and the second "same" mic will not be the same anymore? What do you think?
    Are there any good quality stereo mics like Rode NT-4 but better?
  14. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Yes, there are, but before listing all the top models, I think you should give us some idea of your budget. A single Neumann KM184 is quite a lot more than a Rode NT4, so what it will stretch to?
  15. Haris

    Haris Active Member

    About the price of a single Neumann KM184, if needed a little more. Since there will not much difference if I added the NT-4 I had to raise the amount.
  16. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    It always seems appealing to buy 1 piece of gear while thinking it will sound 200% better. But in fact it is not like that at all.
    Making a good cake requires having all the good ingredients.
    In recording this means
    • having a room that will enhance the sound by its natural accoustics or a room that you won't hear on the recording
    • A great sounding instrument and good performance
    • A mic well adapted to the instrument and the right placement (or many mics depending)
    • A preamp that will either be transparent or have a pleasing sound signature
    • accurate converter(s) and recording system
    If any of those are put to the side, your sound will be missing something (or have too much of).. ;)
    You need to figure out at what point you will be satisfied because you can buy the best mic while spending your entire budget only to realise you also need threatment, preamp, audio interface etc, to achieve the sound you want.

    My first step would be to control the acoustic of that small room and revisit the placement of the H4N.
    Visite a pro studio, book a couple of hours and get a grasp of what sound you can dream of. It may not be very far from what you have...
    Haris likes this.
  17. Haris

    Haris Active Member

    pcrecord, thank you for extensive reply! Room can not change, all else can. I know H4N mics are not very good neither is H4N as a preamp. That is why I want to add mic(s) and some time in the future a preamp. And then I will try to have the best result with all rest.
  18. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    The thing is, a better mic and preamp may just capture more of the room which is what you want to avoid. Condensers, specially large diaphrams, will capture more ambient sound than a dynamic cardioid. I didn't ment to transform the room or make extensive acoustic threatment. It could be as simple as putting the mattress verticaly on its side and playing toward it. Then you could leave the closet door open (if full of dresses ;)) Having a thick carpet. Those are things that can help without spending much.
    Haris likes this.
  19. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Or you try to find a hypercardioid mic and place it close to the instrument.
    Haris likes this.
  20. Haris

    Haris Active Member

    Thank you, I could easily to all above.

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